Falling rates, stocks down, financial crisis… yes I sound just like the daily news. My bank manager phoned me the other day to say a cheque has been returned and the reason was “insufficient funds” I had to ask if that referred to my account or his bank! Okay so my sense of humour is intact!
The elephants still cross in the evenings and head into the villages under the cover of darkness as the smell of the ripe mangoes is just too much to resist. I will never tire of sitting at the crossing point and see herds of them silently walking in single file over the sands and across the Luangwa, the only sounds being the water splashing and the occasional deep and low rumble, something you feel more than hear. To the villagers this nightly raid will be fended off with the banging of pots and some have now erected chilli fences to help (these definitely work and I have them around my garden at the house) To them this is the reality and the hardship of every day life, our challenge is to look for solutions to these human /animal conflicts. I sit and ponder how global economics and more importantly climate change will affect us, the people around the valley and the animals within. So many of the current global problems are attributed to the lack of empathy to the world around us. I do think we have hard times ahead but only by keeping positive and focused can we address these problems and find solutions.
Somehow the days problems always seem less in the afternoon light and sitting on the banks of the Luangwa is good for the soul.
The incredibly positive news is that elections have been held and Ruphia Banda has been elected as our president. This is exactly what our country needs and I have been fortunate enough to have known Ruphia for many years. We are both from the eastern province and he was a personal friend of my late father. He is a born diplomat and a true gentleman.
Herewith a quote from his inauguration speech:
“I want to make Zambia a hub of Southern Africa, a hub for inward investment, a hub for transport and a hub for knowledge and learning, a hub for tourism.”
And as I was finishing off this news letter and sitting at the house at 21.30 I have just witnessed another attempt of the lions taking down a baby hippo. As they did last month they managed to get the hippo to the ground and as we were about to go closer for a better view the mother ran out and chased the lions off and both calf and mother are now back in the river. (all of this happening under fifteen minutes) We drove closer, through my front garden, and in the spot lights we could count over forty crocodiles, one being at least four meters. We left the lions, one young male and three lioness, lying on the top of the bank, the hippo and calf down the bank and the crocodiles in the water… the inevitable will happen and the night will be a long one….
Comments, wildlife sightings and general news from Colleen.
It has been a hot and steamy month.. Still no huge down pour in camp, a few 2 second drizzles.. But nothing more.. It feels as though the wind is blowing in some storms, and that the rains will be here soon.
I’m looking forward to the dramatic skies, the deafening thunderous roar from the dark and heavy clouds and watching the earth sizzle and steam as the rains fall on the dry cracked earth.
Dora is amazed at how nature knows the rains are on their way. With all the new born babies, the trees getting fresh new green leaves and the insects and frogs start to sing. She has said it reminds her of a European spring.
I saw my first Puku and Impala babies of the season this weekend. They are so small and cute, with wobbly bobbly knees, and heads that look too big for their tiny little bodies. I unfortunately was too slow with my camera for the impala but did manage to snap the very cute and fuzzy puku.
I thought this would be a good time to share a few facts on some of the more common antelope that you see while visiting us. The Puku and the Impala. Both beautiful species, which I feel get slightly overlooked.
The Puku (Kobus vardonii) is an antelope found in wet grasslands in southern Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Tanzania. The name Puku, is a Lozi name for the animal. The Lozi people mainly live in the western part of Zambia.
The Puku stands about 80 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh from 70 to 80 kilograms. Puku are sandy brown in colour, the underbelly is a slightly lighter brown. Males have around 50 centimetre long ridge structured horns which are very vaguely lyre-shaped.
Puku are found almost exclusively in marshy grassland where they graze on a variety of grasses as well as a few herbs. Puku are crepuscular, they are active in the early morning and late afternoon. When alarmed, Puku repeat a shrill whistle sound.
Puku are gregarious with females and their offspring living in small herds in home ranges that cover the territories of several males.
Puku breed throughout the year, but there is a definite peak between April and July. The gestation period is 8 months, and many of the young are born in the rains.
Another very common antelope found in the Luangwa is the Impala, these are reddish-brown in colour with lighter flanks, have white underbellies and a characteristic “M” marking on its rear. Males have lyre-shaped horns which can reach up to 90 centimetres in length. Average mass for an Impala is approximately 75 kilograms.
Impala are among the dominant species in many savannas in africa. There are two sub species of impala in Africa. The one found in South Luangwa National Park is the more common, and occurs through most of southern and east Africa. The Second sub- species, known as the Black – faced impala. This sub species has a restricted distribution in the northern part of Nambia and southern Angola.
The abundance of the species relates to there ability to adapt to different environment by being grazers in some areas and browsers in others. They graze when the grass is green and growing and browse at other times. They will browse on shoots, seedpods and foliage.
Herds will use specific areas for their excrement. Impala are active during both day and night and are dependent on water. A herd is normally an indicator of water close by. Impala can thrive in areas where pure grazers can not survive.
When frightened or startled the whole impala herd starts leaping about in order to confuse their predator. They can jump distances more than 9 meters (30 ft) and 2.5 meters (8 ft) high. Leopards, Nile crocodiles, lions, spotted hyenas and wild dogs all prey on the impala.
Females and young form herds of up to two hundred individuals. When food is plentiful, adult males will establish territories and round up any female herd that enter their grounds and will chase away bachelor males that follow. They will even chase away recently weaned males. A male impala tries to prevent any female from leaving its territory. The whole breeding season also known as rutting. This normally occurs towards the end of April through May. The process typically lasts for approximately three weeks. The gestation period is 6 months, however the mother has the ability to prolong giving birth for an additional month if conditions are harsh. When giving birth a female impala will isolate herself from the herd despite numerous attempts by the male to keep her in his territory. The impala mother will keep the fawn in an isolated spot for a few days or even leave it lying out in hiding for a couple days, weeks, or more before returning to the herd. There the fawn will join a nursery group and will go to its mother only to nurse and when predators are near. Fawns are suckled for 4 to 6 months. Males who mature are forced out of the group and will join bachelor herds.
During the dry seasons, territories are abandoned as herds must travel farther to find food. Large, mixed tranquil herds of females and males form.
The Southern Carmine Bee- eater, are currently nesting on the Wildlife peninsular. These beautifully striking birds are richly coloured and are highly sociable species, gathering in large flocks, in or out of breeding season. They are nesting in the river bank, digging burrows into the earthen bank/ clay cliffs. The burrows are 1-2 meters long, where they lay 2-5 eggs.
We have spent a few late afternoons, watching the sun set, with a cold drink in hand, while being surrounded by these magnificent birds. I did manage to get a few shots…
My family in New Zealand, have informed me that the Christmas hype has begun, with bells, tinsel, Christmas trees , red and gold balls, being hung from all corners of the shops and malls. Just to remind you all, that if you are looking for somewhere to spend Christmas with a slightly different twist we are open and will be happy to have you. Dora and I are planning a lavish Christmas lunch with flame lilies decorating our table. The Wildlife choir is about to start rehearsing the Christmas carols, which we will sing on the Park bridge. It will be a great day, so please keep us in mind.
That’s all from me,
Colleen and the Wildlife Team